By Okanga Agila
In the final months of transition from military to civil rule between 1998 and 1999, I never felt the enthusiasm that gripped most people in the country. My lethargic disposition at that time was not due to the uncertainty of whether the process would work – it was largely seen as an attempt, an experiment, a trial at that time because no one was certain the military will retreat to their barracks and stay put for one year without overthrowing the elected government, so any thought of a decade without military rule was stretching it.
The seeming indifference on my path was because the one man I believe as capable of resetting Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, was not taking part in the contest. I easily concluded that those that will emerge from the process between 1998 and 1999 would merely continue the maladministration of the military albeit without khaki uniform. Sixteen years of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and I dare say my assumption was proven right.
At the other times that Buhari unsuccessfully ran for office I supported him with all I can, which is not much. It consists mainly of one on one engagements to persuade people to see the value of getting a man that is not of the established order into office. Whenever those I engage in discourse ask what he has to offer I am quick to mention that his role is to bring the disruption that is needed to restart Nigeria on a new foundation.
May 29, 2015 my desire was fulfilled. President Muhammadu Buhari was inaugurated and the changes desired kicked-in in earnest. While it has been a case of a half-empty and half-filled cup, perspective, since his inauguration, the results are nonetheless glaring for the discerning to see. For instance he was accused of not hitting the ground running when in reality it is about taking time to look before leaping. The same rabble that allege tardiness to act would have accused him of brashness in the same measure.
President Buhari did disrupted the system. He dislocated those that had made it their life mission to continually loot the treasury to the detriment of the larger population. This disruption of corruption from source has left those caught in the storm to continually lament about the hardship they are facing, which in reality is no hardship but people being jolted back to reality after decades of thriving on stolen easy money.
He disrupted the fixation on crude oil as the major revenue earner of our economy. We are not there yet but the path of growth that is possible for Nigeria is becoming clearer. This shift from dependency on oil revenue to a broader base economy is underpinned by massive investment in infrastructure across the country. In focusing on infrastructure, he displayed a trait that has been missing among Nigerian leaders – that capacity to complete what others started but never developed the will to finish. This alone has saved the country from wastages that come from abandoned projects.
Meanwhile, the capacity to focus and complete the task at hand extends to building systems like the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), enforcement of Bank Verification Number (BVN) for the operation of bank accounts and other steps that have contributed to the war against corruption championed by him.
Under his watch I have seen a realignment that may not be visible to Nigerians yet, but it shall become clearer in the course of time. There has been a kind of silent wealth redistribution under his watch. In the course of executing actual projects, the money that would have gone into the pockets of a few individuals is now not just providing infrastructure but also putting money in the pockets of workers engaged to execute the jobs. In the same space of time that some people are lamenting about hardship in the land, there has been a shift that is seeing more family sized apartments and bungalows being built versus the time that only a few mansions were built by those that cornered national resources. So in the real sense honest people now have the chance to earn clean money and not be dependent on tainted money.
In terms of state intervention, social interventions like N-Power, Trade Moni, the Conditional Cash Transfer and other programmes have placed made money available to Nigerians under different terms. These are funds that in the past would have been diverted for personal use by those that were sworn to act in the nest interest of the country.
Irrespective what critics want the world to believe, President Buhari’s uprightness is unrivalled. Take for instance his directive to all the agencies with roles in the conduct of the General Elections to ensure that they conduct a free, fair and acceptable exercise. It takes someone that is truly desirous of progress for the country to issue such directive, totally in keeping with his credential as a democrat at heart. He is a leader I respect tremendously more so that all efforts to tarnish his image have failed because he stands above board at all times.
I recall these qualities of President Muhammadu Buhari on the occasion of his 76th birthday knowing that an additional year adds additional wisdom, patience and understanding to his person. My prayer is that God grants him good health so that by 2022 we will again extend our good wishes to him on his 80th as the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria. I know for a certainty that the positive results of the foundation he is presently laying would be visible and appreciable for all to see and experience. Happy Birthday President Muhammadu Buhari. May God sustain your rule.
Okanga wrote from Agila, Benue State.